Financial Literacy for Everyone

10 Things You Should Buy Used

With the rising costs of gas and groceries and an unemployment rate expected to remain above 9% through 2011, many of us are feeling the pinch and trying to cut back on expenses wherever we can. Before you give up your beloved latte or Friday dinner out, take a look at the items you could be buying used for a fraction of the cost of new – without sacrificing quality, style or safety. You don't have to be a thrift store regular to pick up these items second-hand, and slash your expenses in the process.

1. Books. These days, new titles range from about $8 to $28 per book. If you read with regularity or you buy books for your kids, it could add up to hundreds of dollars per month. Before your next trip to a chain bookstore, research used bookstores in your area. Online retailers like Amazon.com tend to offer most titles in both new and used condition. And for incredible deals on books, check out garage sales and thrift stores, where it's possible to get books for pennies. (The library is another option that won't cost you a bit.)

2. Toys. Legos, toy trucks, dollhouses, tea sets and more are often available for a steal at garage sales or sites like craigslist (craigslist.org links to http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites). With toys going in and out of popularity by the week and kids growing up quickly, it's a shame to spend big on new toys. One smart tactic: buy toys that have been washed and clean them yourself before use.

3. Sports Equipment. Balls, nets, golf clubs, hockey sticks and other gear are excellent items to buy second-hand. It's especially wise to buy used if you or your children are trying out a new sport. That way, you can make sure it's going to stick before investing in more expensive gear. In addition to sites like eBay.com (eBay.com links to: http://www.ebay.com/), there are several online sites devoted to selling used equipment, like playitagainsports.com (url links to http://www.playitagainsports.com).

4. Clothing. You may or may not feel comfortable buying clothing used. But if you've never tried it because you are concerned about quality or health, you may be surprised by some of the top-quality, mint condition finds available for incredible prices on sites like eBay. Clothing for a one-time formal event or for growing kids can be bought used at a fraction of the cost of new. Just look for top-condition items from brands you trust, and make sure to wash before wearing.

5. Musical instruments. Many people decide to start playing a musical instrument only to lose interest a few months later. One cost-saving solution is to try out different instruments at a music store to determine what you like best, and then look for the item used online. It pays to research the size and type of instrument you want before shopping.

6. DVDs. If your family likes to buy DVDs to watch at home, used is a simple and budget-friendly option. With new movies costing anywhere from $10 to $25 per title, you could be spending hundreds of dollars per year unnecessarily. Instead, look for the same used DVDs at thrift stores, garage sales and online. You're likely to pay closer to $5 for the same movies.

7. Games. When it comes to video games, kids tend to lose interest after just a few weeks; so why spend $20 to $100 on the latest releases when you can get the same games online for significantly less? The same goes for board games which can run you anywhere from $30 to $80 new. When buying board games in thrift stores or at garage sales, make sure to check that all of the pieces are still intact and included.

8. Furniture. Some types of furniture, like mattresses, are better bought new. But many other items – like tables, desks, dressers and chairs – are readily available on sites like craigslist in excellent condition for much less than the cost of new. In many cases, people buy furniture or home d├ęcor only to realize later that it doesn't fit well in their space. That can mean getting an excellent deal on barely-used furniture. One trick is to check listings over several days or weeks to find the type of item you want.

9. Hand tools. If you are in the market for a saw, drill or other hand tool, consider seeking out high-quality second hand alternatives, or refurbished tools, and you could do your pocketbook a big favor. There are numerous sites devoted to used tools specifically. Since safety can be an issue with hand tools, it's best to buy lightly used or newly refurbished tools, and to oil or prep them yourself before use.

10. Maternity and baby clothes. Parents and parents-to-be: pregnancy and infancy go by in a flash, so it doesn't always make sense to stock up on expensive maternity and baby clothes when you are expecting. Instead, ask friends for their hand-me-downs or shop used options online. The prices you can get on stylish or adorable high-quality duds may shock you.

Whether you love checking out garage sales or you have never bought used before, working at least a few of these ideas into your purchases over the next year can have a real impact on your budget. For more ways to live richly on a budget, visit our Money Scene archives.

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